KANSAS CITY, Kan. – There’s a great deal of racial disharmony in our nation. While some see America as a land that offers justice for all, others maintain that bigotry still colors our perspective. And the movies don’t seem to be helping.
Fortunately, there are two movies among recent releases that do much to reveal America’s social progress. First, “Turbo.”
I liked this cartoon feature from frame one. It started out with the animators and 3D process drawing us into an amazing representation of a car race. The kids in the audience were awed by that scene. So was I. OK, OK, it’s a story about snails entering the Indy 500 but the symbolic significance and the creative storytelling quickly got viewers past the silly premise. It didn’t take long before we were rooting for that little-bug-who-could.
But here’s what really pleased me about Turbo. Several ethnic groups were positively represented, which I believe reflects today’s American cultural makeup. While its characters are a bit stereotypical, this animated family comedy is imaginative and uplifting, and I appreciated the fact that an effort was made on behalf of children to represent multiethnic people (and bugs) pulling together.
Meanwhile, “Pacific Rim,” that clamorous cacophony of continuing commotion about giant robots piloted by humans doing battle with Godzilla-like alien invaders, did have a subtle element I found nurturing. There’s an Asian lead, a black lead and a white lead, and never are we meant to think about their being of different races. They fight as one, respect each other, and each is willing to sacrifice for the others. There’s no hyphen associated with their character description. They’re just people working together to survive.
I’ve never understood the concept of disliking someone because of the color of his skin. My dad taught me to show respect for each individual. He had grasped a teaching in John 3:16 that those who want to distance themselves from other races ignore: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Those two words “world” and “whosoever” make it clear that God loves all who turn to Him. But laws don’t change the heart. And they won’t end prejudice. Only Jesus, our Rock of Ages, can do that.
Too many politicians, social activists and media moguls think our nation can be restructured without applying that spiritual perspective. Sadly, they’re attempting to build on sand the house we live in. Not on the Rock.
“The Lone Ranger,” another recent release, did poorly at the box office not just because it was a lethargic, bloated, excessive distortion of the Masked Man’s legacy. Besides the spin that made the iconic western hero out to be a fool, it also was a biased, prejudiced, insulting characterization of America’s pioneers. My theory is that people weren’t thrilled with that portrait of their ancestors.
The film went so far as to suggest that white pioneers were cowards. Really, Hollywood, you want to call our pioneers cowards? Whatever else can be said of them, cowardice can’t honestly be applied to those who explored and tamed a prairie that eventually would signal hope to those in other lands.
It’s good when a film celebrates what different races offer this unique nation. Our differences make us strong. But this redo of The Lone Ranger is more like a social manifest negating what our pioneer founders made possible.
This leads me to the question, isn’t it harmful when you present only the negative of any race, including the “white” one? Certainly there’s a place for exposing areas in our creed needing perfecting, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his Lone Ranger crew did it from a one-sided, often contentious slant. Expose the problems, OK, but the media has a responsibility also to present examples of Americans of every race doing the right thing. Otherwise we’ll never trust, never forgive and never heal.
It further frustrated me when The Lone Ranger script and those involved in bringing it to the screen were determined to spoof every Christian character in the film, portraying each one as an imbecile or a villainous hypocrite. Excuse me, but isn’t that attitude called prejudice?
Sadly, the movie industry isn’t looking at these attacks on white people as the reason for the film’s box office failing. They are content with the belief that today’s moviegoers just don’t like westerns. Really? Then why did the 2010 remake of “True Grit” do so well?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to “The World and Everything in It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)